Cassie Craven, a Cheyenne lawyer who is running a local LegalShield program, sits for a portrait Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, at the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. Nadav Soroker/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – Nowadays, instead of buying cable TV, people subscribe to streaming services such as Netflix or Hulu. This is also becoming true for their legal services.

Instead of having to pay lawyers a lofty retainer that can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 or more, people can now get quality legal help using the same model they use to stream their favorite shows. And the cost is about the same.

LegalShield is a company that provides legal assistance at a rate starting around $25 per month and varies based on if the coverage is for families, individuals or businesses. The company has been around for almost 50 years, but hasn’t had much of a presence in the Mountain West.

That’s why Network Vice President for LegalShield Patrick Manning reached out to local attorney Cassie Craven to help expand the service in this region.

“People always say that access to justice, or justice, is black and white, is always a race thing or a cultural thing,” Craven said. “In my experience as an attorney, it’s green, right? It doesn’t matter what color you are, you’re going to get the best lawyer on the street if you can afford them. You might get the best outcome if you can hire a big enough team to make it happen, but if you cannot afford that, it’s literally outside of your reach.”

The idea of paying a small monthly subscription for legal services was the brainchild of LegalShield founder Harland Stonecipher, who founded the company after he was smacked with a frivolous lawsuit after a car accident in 1969, according to the New York Times.

Stonecipher ended up settling the lawsuit, and wasn’t at fault in the accident to begin with, but due to the large legal bills he had to pay it nearly left him bankrupt, according to the newspaper. Stonecipher died in 2014, but his company lives on.

“The bedrock of our country, why people have fought and died for to protect ... was the idea that everyone has equal access,” Manning said. “And from the suffrage movement to the civil rights movement, everything that we fought for is never going to be realized if we don’t make sure that every American has access to the justice system. And they don’t have to take it on the chin.”

But LegalShield also helps with smaller problems that people tend to tolerate because the cost of hiring a lawyer is more than what they would get in return. Craven used the examples of a utility companies messing up a bill, a speeding ticket or landlord and tenant issues. Craven said she’s currently using the service to help her with a trademark issue.

Another aspect Craven said she really likes about the service is the 24/7 emergency legal assistance. For instance, if someone gets pulled over for driving under the influence, and they have their vape pen in the car, they can call the 24/7 emergency line and ask the lawyer what they should do.

Craven said having access to an attorney early on helps people practice good legal health, so small problems don’t turn into big ones.

Even though LegalShield isn’t well-known in this region, Manning said the company is at a tipping point for growth.

“There’s something to be said for a business model like LegalShield has where we actually talk to people and tell them about the services,” Manning said. “It takes a little longer to grow. But instead of spending money for advertising, LegalShield pays us to advocate for people and get them the service.”

Isabella Alves is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s criminal justice reporter. She can be reached at ialves@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3128. Follow her on Twitter at @IsabellaAlves96.

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